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    NATO SECRETARY GENERAL WANTS TO ENHANCE RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

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    BRUSSELS, March 6 (RIA Novosti) - The NATO Secretary General wants to enhance the alliance's relations with Russia.

    "Relations may be firm only when they are of an open, straight and unbiased nature. I intend to help build such firm relations with Russia," the NATO press service quotes Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's speech in Warsaw's Diplomatic Academy.

    Speaking about joint work within the NATO-Russia Council, the head of the alliance admitted that the sides' positions do not coincide on all issues under discussion.

    "We want the NATO-Russia Council to become a forum at which NATO allies, whose number is 19 today and will soon reach 26, would discuss with Russia specific issues on the agenda. Among them are such complex issues as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and Russia's Istanbul commitments," the secretary general said.

    He also said that within the framework of the system of "new partnership" he pays great attention to individual cooperation of NATO with South Caucasus and Middle Asia countries.

    As for relations with Ukraine, in the NATO Secretary General's words, "this country needs assistance." "We are firm in our adherence to render such assistance," he said.

    Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said one of the conditions for Ukraine's integration into European structures is progress in conducting democratic reforms.

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